MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – From noon to 5 pm this Sunday, August 22, the Marcus Performing Arts Center is hosting its first-ever âHeroes Day,â in honor of frontline workers, first responders and veterans. It is an extension of what is usually a Flag Day ceremony.
George Banda is a Vietnam veteran who will honor prisoners of war and missing persons during the ceremony. He has been in the moment of silence for a number of years, and his commitment to prisoners of war and MIA is something he has dedicated himself to for the past 50 years.
We asked him what he sees when he watches the American flag fly above downtown Milwaukee.
âIt means sacrifice, sacrifice,â he said, sitting at a picnic table outside the Marcus Center. “He doesn’t fly there on his own. There was a lot of sacrifice to get that flag up there.”
Banda served a year in Vietnam as a combat medic in the 101st Airborne Division. This year has shaped the past five decades.
âI don’t know how I did it. Looking back and seeing 20 year olds now, I’m great. What a responsibility,â Banda said of this time in his life.
He survived the war and saved many lives along the way.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re hurt, if you’re 10 feet from me or 100 feet from me, I’ll come and get you, and I did. It’s a promise I’ve always kept,” a- he said with a serious look on his face.
But it was those he couldn’t save that inspired him.
âTommy Teran from Midland, Michigan,â he said without missing a beat. “In the battle he could have been 15-20 feet away from me and I could see him, he could see me. And we were doing what we had to do to survive.”
But when the smoke cleared, Teran was gone.
“We patrolled all day, the next day, the next week, a week later. For a month we looked for him,” Banda recalls.
It would be years before DNA confirmed that Teran’s body had been found.
âIt wasn’t until 1997 that any remains were found in this area, and then in 2002 they were sent to Hawaii and the DNA they were identified as being from Tommy Teran,â Banda said.
Teran was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
âEvery year I come down to visit and say hello and say, hey, we haven’t forgotten you, here we are,â Banda said.
Last year, Banda virtually held his minute of silence. It includes a placemat for one with a rose and other items, each with a special meaning.
âThe candle is lit, symbolizing the ascending reach of their indomitable spirit,â he said in a video recording.
This year, the minute of silence will take place in person on Heroes’ Day.
âIt will be a full day, a day for family and friends,â said Anthony Smith, director of community engagement and inclusion at the Marcus Center.
The ceremony returns to the outdoor stage this year.
âWe wanted to celebrate all of our first responders and frontline workers, as well as our veterans,â Smith said.
The Marcus Center has been part of the Milwaukee County War Memorial since 1969.
âIt’s from a dedicated war memorial, and we honor and recognize veterans year after year,â Smith explained.
The ceremony will also include a naturalization ceremony.
âWe will have 60 people in the center who will be sworn in as citizens of the United States,â Smith said.
He has worked with Banda for years and is happy that they can reunite.
âHe loves the community, he loves the people, he’s well known, the people love him,â Smith said. “Whenever I call George for anything we do here, George is always ready to support us.”
Banda – a hero himself – doesn’t take anything for granted.
âI remember thinking to myself, I must live a life worthy of their sacrifice,â he said. “Here I am, over 50 years later, how lucky and lucky to be here, in the sun, in the breeze of the lake.”
For more information on Heroes Day, you can visit https://www.marcuscenter.org/show/heroes-day.